A Match Made in Heaven: Computer Love's Music Video Collaborations With Dylan Mars Greenberg
With angelic, almost seapunk CGI and catchy electronic tunes, the new music videos for “Clio” and “Learning To Walk” directed by Dylan Mars Greenberg for Finn Martel’s project Computer Love are fun, fresh, experimental heaven. Cell Vision correspondent Sylvea Suydam interviewed the artists about working together as well as their solo artistic endeavors.
It’s always exciting when two artists are able to join forces on a project and bring out the best in each other. It’s especially true when it comes to cross-pollination across different mediums, as with a music video.
Case in point: the new music videos for Finn Martel’s project Computer Love directed by underground filmmaker Dylan Mars Greenberg. Finn, a resident of Philly, and NYC scene queen Dylan collaborated on a series of videos for Computer Love’s new album Forever, as well as working together to produce Dylan’s new EP Badworld, which came out May 8th.
With catchy electronic vocals and colorful CGI worlds, the music and videos for "Clio" and "Learning To Walk" are out of this world. I spoke with the two artists over Zoom.
CELL VISION: How did you two meet?
FINN MARTEL: I've known Matt Ellin from Dylan’s band Theophobia since we were kids, so I met Dylan through him because they're very close friends. But the way these videos came about was she needed someone to produce her new album Badworld.
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: We did this trade where he produced the songs for my new album and then I did music videos for him.
CELL VISION: So this is your first collaboration together?
FINN MARTEL: Yeah, I don't think I could have afforded Dylan otherwise haha!
CELL VISION: Do you have plans to do more after these two?
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: Yeah, there's going to be one more music video that comes out that we shot already that is in editing.
FINN MARTEL: There's three more overall that are going to be part of this.
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: Right, so it's actually two directors that are going to be working on this project. There's other scenes that take place on Earth that I'm not directing, and everything in these other worlds is going to be my department. The idea is that there will be two separate aesthetics for Earth and Heaven
FINN MARTEL: There are five songs on this Computer Love album. What I'm doing is [that] there will be 5 videos, and I wrote a script that's basically the five music videos brought together with segues in between to form a short film.
"Originally, I was going to make the setting for all these basically Heaven, like the classic idea, but I realized it was just a bit too straightforward. So I abstracted it more and built out my own version that was inspired by earlier Christian paintings." -Finn Martel
CELL VISION: I did see a visual cohesion between them, the monochromatic shirts for instance. What is the theme that ties this all together?
FINN MARTEL: Where I've always struggled as an artist, I think, is marrying the visual side with the music and the meaning. I was thinking about these songs and what I realized is all the songs are about different ways in which I've searched for something that feels eternal and everlasting, whether that's through buying things, relationships, or different drugs or belief systems. I also think it's interesting how the story of [an] eternity where something lasts forever, something that's always perfect, has been told by almost every religion, even though they're separate in time and space. I think it's just one of the most core human concepts that we have.
Originally, I was going to make the setting for all these basically Heaven, like the classic idea, but as I was working on it I realized it was just a bit too straightforward. So I abstracted it more and built out my own version that was inspired by earlier Christian paintings, like from around the Byzantine era. A lot of that isn't clouds and blue and white, it's more just gold foil and that type of thing. With the “Clio” video I was also inspired by the game Halo. The thing that ties together the music and the visuals is creating an eternal afterlife.
CELL VISION: I’m fascinated by your inspiration from gilded ecclesiastic art, Finn, and I especially love the strong use of color in these. I'm wondering, Dylan, if you can speak a little bit about what went into the process of designing the videos?
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: A big inspiration in these is the work of Zbigniew Rybczyński, who was a pretty big music video director and one of the innovators of blue screen technology. He actually developed software in the ‘80s because he was not satisfied with digital chroma key at the time! He was also one of the first ever directors to shoot on HD video in the mid-80s, but unfortunately, there aren't that many transfers that do it justice. Anyway, he did the video for “Candy” by Cameo which is the big inspiration here, but also there's a video for “Opportunities” by the Pet Shop Boys that uses his signature horizontal scrolling past people using blue screen. There's a scene where the Pet Shop Boys are continuously passing a brick to each other in an endless loop and I shot something like that in “Clio” where they're tossing a baseball back and forth. That was one of the hardest things, to get it to match up where they are moving seamlessly.
"Hearing the way a lot of rappers use [autotune], I was like “Oh, you play it like an instrument!” and realized you can do weird noises with your throat and it'll make this thing that didn't exist otherwise." -Finn Martel
CELL VISION: I get a sort of synthwave, ‘80s throwback vibe to the music, is this on brand for Computer Love?
FINN MARTEL: I would say “Clio” is probably my most twentieth century sounding song, a lot more is probably described as 21st. I have this DX7 plug-in that I was able to pirate and use in producing, and I was making all my stuff on that early on so it had this like '80s kind of feel.
CELL VISION: The vocal effect in these, did you use a vocoder, or is it auto-tune?
FINN MARTEL: It’s a combination of both. I like auto-tune for sure, that's been a big thing on this album, learning how to use auto-tune. I grew up playing in bands and playing “real instruments” or whatever, so I never dealt with it that much, but then I got really into a lot of 2000s Atlanta artists, like early Future, Jeezy, that kind of stuff. One of the things I really love about the voice production on those is they're playing the auto-tune like it’s an instrument. In all my production experience I've been in rock music, and auto-tune is kind of like this dirty little secret thing.
CELL VISION: It does seem like people associate it with pop and rap, mostly.
FINN MARTEL: Hearing the way a lot of rappers use it, I was like “Oh, you play it like an instrument!” and realized you can do weird noises with your throat and it'll make this thing that didn't exist otherwise. That's where I take a lot of inspiration from the way I use it in my songs.
CELL VISION: Who’s on your playlist right now, anyone you’d like to shout out?
FINN MARTEL: I always shuffle my whole Spotify library, lately it’s been a lot of Future, Animal Collective, and Lana Del Rey. I just saw this amazing band last night out of nowhere, they're called Spllit, and people should definitely check them out, it's nothing like what I make. Another band I've been listening to a lot is Jet Fuel Soda, this Philadelphia band that’s kind of shoegaze. I've been super into their album lately, and I play shows with them a lot. They're cool. I'm probably playing three to five shows a month.
CELL VISION: How do you find the Philly music scene?
FINN MARTEL: I love it, there's so many resources available at a low level. I grew up in Baltimore, and Baltimore is a bit too small, everyone's fighting for so little. So there's a lot of, I want to say, just like anger at people. They just don't get along in that scene.
CELL VISION: I know there’s a lot of noise and punk that comes out of Baltimore, it seems like an aggressive kind of city, artistically.
FINN MARTEL: And just in general. It’s very competitive, but not in a way that I think builds each other up. I get it though, because there's just so few places, and everyone is competing for the small amount of exposure that’s available there. It just makes it a tough environment to be an artist but then like somewhere like New York on the other end of the spectrum, like no one my age has houses in New York. You have to live in an apartment at any age, without big yards and basements.
CELL VISION: Shows in general, have they recovered to where they were before quarantine hit? What's the vibe in general when you're out?
FINN MARTEL: It's tough for me to say that because I moved cities during that, but people are still showing up.
CELL VISION: Do you find that you're doing a lot of house shows, or are you playing venues?
FINN MARTEL: Definitely more house shows than venues right now, I enjoy having more control over the lights and the sound.
CELL VISION: Dylan, your earlier work has a more underground look, you yourself of course being involved heavily with Troma and that whole scene, but it seems your visual style is definitely evolving in your latest videos, including these.
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: I've always wanted to shoot stuff on big sets that I could design, and in lieu of a budget to build massive sets, I've gotten into the idea of constructing virtual sets using CG. Like Finn was just saying, I also like being in complete control of an environment and how the environment looks. My film The Bathtub was my first experience shooting something entirely on greenscreen and then creating the environment later, but those were actual miniatures that we built, and that was awesome.
CELL VISION: You seem to be incorporating more CGI into your work these days, how has that been for you?
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: Yeah! The “ethereal” environments were actually created for me in Blender by Em Argiro (@Em_argiro on IG), and then I animated everything that went down in those videos, including the camera angles and the lighting. I sometimes made adjustments to Em’s environments, I've made some fairly simple environments out of basic geometry, I just can't make something necessarily as advanced as what Em did. I'd like to learn more about making environments, but I was able to adjust them and then animate the camera angles and where all the people were, and yes, sometimes I completely shifted the lighting or something.
CELL VISION: What are your goals as artists?
FINN MARTEL: I didn't want to flip flop on it, but sometimes I'm like, “I want to be the biggest artist ever, and have the most money ever” but also, I just want to support my family and do what makes me happy, so I don't know.
DYLAN MARS GREENBERG: I'm in sound mix now for my seventh feature film and hoping that in the next session it’s completely finished, so my goal would be to release it and have a premiere this summer. I’d like to do more stuff visually for my own EP Badworld that Finn produced, which dropped May 8, as well as for my band Theophobia.
Dylan’s short film The Puppeteers Assistant is now streaming on Adult Swim and Nite Flight+. Her website, Instagram, and Twitter can be found at the links below.
You can get more info on Computer Love and connect with them on Instagram and Twitter via the links below.